The other day, my children and I walked past a Harry Potter movie poster that said, assuming we’d know the film title and history, simply “It All Ends 7/15.” My son observed that he had, quite literally, grown up with Harry Potter, and so he has. From the first film, during which I had to carry him from the theater, so terrified was he by the chess scene, to the last, when he was old enough to drive himself to a midnight showing, Harry, Dumbledore, Voldemort and company have been prominent figures in our lives. I offered to go, in costume, with him and his friends. He laughed, I laughed – and felt some curious mix of silliness, rich memory, and maudlin sadness.
With Harry, we got a head start on many people. Friends from Great Britain had a copy of Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone, with its pricetag listed as 2£ - and recommended it enthusiastically. I read it aloud to my daughters (the last book we would ever read out loud together!), and then purchased one of the first copies of the American hardback, with its oddly changed title, Sorcerer’s Stone.
Harry Potter landed in my sermons. The duly famous “Mirror of Erised” scene: in the inner recesses of Hogwarts, Harry discovers a mysterious mirror, featuring the words, Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi, which is quite simply I show not your face but your heart’s desire backwards. Dumbledore explains that this mirror shows us, not what we want, but “nothing more or less than the deepest and most desperate desire of our hearts.” I placed a lovely wooden floor length mirror at the front of the nave, positioned so that when worshippers came up for Holy Communion they would catch a glimpse of themselves being handed a piece of bread.
My deepest desire probably would have been for J.K. Rowling to stop writing books, and for no more movies to be made, and for my children to stay young, in those glorious moments when parents and children share the sound of stories, having climbed into a bed together, and when children, when frightened, bury their heads on their father’s shoulder. I lost track of Harry Potter after the third book, and have seen some but not all the films. My children began reading them, and going to movies, on their own, or with friends.
This is, of course, the way of the earth, and I am happy they have grown up with tales of good versus evil, where children make mistakes and yet have magical powers and understand the battle for the good, and exhibit considerable courage. A minister friend, of a very different denomination, went public with his rage against Harry Potter. I tried to talk with him, and he shouted that the popular books and films were creating wizards and sorcerers. I explained to him that my children loved Harry Potter but, try as they might, they could never get a broom to respond to the command, “Up!”
But my children though have grown Up!
That mirror of Erised doesn’t predict the future, but it does give a bit of a glimpse into the past. Harry sees his deceased parents – and as I gaze into it, now that “It All Ends,” I think of the ending of a childhood, or three actually, and wonder if, when all is said and done, I might be the man Dumbledore described: “The happiest man on earth would look into the mirror and see only himself, exactly how he is." Or perhaps see himself, with his children, their ages a bit blurry now, the desire a grand memory to be cherished, and never forgotten.